Pulmonary cavitary sarcoidosis: clinico-radiologic characteristics and natural history of a rare form of sarcoidosis

Medicine (Baltimore). 2008 May;87(3):142-151. doi: 10.1097/MD.0b013e3181775a73.


Pulmonary cavitary lesions in the absence of concomitant comorbidities are an uncommon and often confusing manifestation of sarcoidosis. We retrospectively reviewed the clinical and high-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) characteristics and the natural history of a series of 23 patients with pulmonary cavitary lesions found on HRCT extracted from a large cohort of patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis. The estimated prevalence of cavitary sarcoidosis was 2.2%. Cavitary lesions developed in patients with severe and active sarcoidosis (serum angiotensin-converting enzyme [SACE] > or =2 times the upper limit of normal range: 63.6%). Twelve (52.2%) patients had evidence of radiographic stage IV, 9 of whom (75%) had persistently increased SACE. As found on HRCT, cavitary lesions were multiple in 21 patients (91.3%), including 5 patients with 10 or more cavities. The size of cavitary lesions was variable, with a median diameter of 20 mm (range, 11-100 mm). Follow-up was available for 20 patients with a median follow-up of 6.25 years (range, 6 months to 15 years). Seven patients (35%) experienced some type of complication related to cavitary lesions, including 6 episodes of hemoptysis in 5 patients and aspergilloma occurrence in 3 patients. As seen on HRCT, the evolution of the number and size of cavitary lesions was variable, with a complete resolution of the largest cavitary lesion in only 5 patients (25%). During follow-up, wall thickening was always associated with a further infectious complication. In summary, cavitary lesions are rare in pulmonary sarcoidosis and usually occur in active and severe sarcoidosis. Their evolution is unpredictable, and complications are frequent.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sarcoidosis, Pulmonary / diagnostic imaging*
  • Sarcoidosis, Pulmonary / pathology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed